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April 06, 2020 by Douglas McMillan

The Covid-19 pandemic which our society is currently experiencing is having a major impact on Family Law matters.  The main area of impact is on the operation of orders already made or in the process of being made.  Putting aside necessary court delays and the flow on impact, it may have a profound effect on children and property matters.  With current children orders, mandatory social distancing and isolation in some cases, may preclude non-resident parents from spending face to face time with their children, leading to a negative impact on the children’s relationship with the non-resident parent and resentment towards the resident parent depending on decisions made by parents.  It is important to make reasonable arrangements for non-resident parents to have continual input into the daily lives of children, whether by making reasonable concessions to have face to face contact if possible, or increasing Skype, telephone time, or by using any other technical or practical means at the disposal of each family, noting each family have different dynamics and technologies at their disposal.  The importance of making sensible, and reasonable, decisions that are in children’s’ best interests cannot be underestimated, and the risks of Covid-19 to deny time with children should be avoided, where reasonably possible.

Family Law property matters may be significantly affected as people’s businesses are put at risk while individual employee incomes may be reduced or become non-existent, even in the face of important government initiatives to alleviate the negative health, and financial, impact on community members albeit as individuals, or as a whole.  In this volatile environment, the values of assets and liabilities may be fluctuating, both in a negative and positive way.  Shares are an example of the latter dependent on holdings in certain sectors of the economy.   The overall impact is that parties should carefully consider their settlement expectations at a time when the health and financial landscape of the community and of them as individuals may be changing on a daily basis.  The governments of Australia are acting, as best they can, to put in place safeguards to reduce the immediate negative impacts on all Australians.

Being in a Family Law dispute is stressful at the best of times, but making reasonable decisions during this time will be testing on all the parties.

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